It’s hard to recall the last time leading ad forecasters and CBS research chief David Poltrack were so far apart with their annual predictions for spending on U.S. television.
But the veteran market watcher, in his widely followed annual prediction made today at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, says that spending for U.S. broadcast TV will rise 9.5% — suggesting a 5% underlying growth without help from the elections and the Summer Olympics in Brazil.
Some of this will represent a shift from cable, which he estimates could see about 3% growth. Ratings at nine of the 10 biggest networks, accounting for about two-thirds of cable ad spending, are down.
“With a strong Olympics we might see double-digit growth,” for the first time since 2004, he says acknowledging that “this is a very bullish, contrarian forecast.” Although some may question his objectivity on the matter “over the years I have measured and documented [broadcast TV’s] impact. I see nothing on the horizon that will threaten [the medium’s] preeminence.”
He’s upbeat about the health of the economy, predicting that gains in real consumer income will result in an uptick in spending. At the same, the CBS researcher — speaking for the broadcast industry at the confab — believes that many advertisers who have flirted with digital platforms will return to traditional networks…especially as they appreciate how many people watch their shows on digital platforms not counted in Nielsen’s ratings.
On that score, Poltrack acknowledges that there’s been a “slight decline” in prime time viewing at the Big 4 networks so far this season. That will probably continue in 2016.
But make-good ads — free air time to accomodate buyers when a show falls short of the audience size the network guaranteed — “will be manageable.”
Networks gambled in the spring when they cut back on the amount of ad inventory they sold in the upfront market, where they make the guarantees. With spending in the scatter market improving each quarter, “the strategy is working.”
The ranks of viewers should increase as millennials, especially those who were frightened by the 2008 recession and burdened by student debt, reach an age when they”ll “leave the security of Mom and Dad’s house and move into a home of their own.”
Poltrack says that advertisers are beginning to recognize that they improve sales with spots on network TV that reach a broad audience as opposed to those on digital platforms designed to more sharply target potential buyers.
“The digital campaigns reach far less households” in the target, recent Nielsen research shows, with TV hitting about 80% and digital 40%, he says. And those who spend on digital to expand the messages they put on TV find that the Internet impact “is marginal at best.”
The last thing advertisers should be doing is using television dollars to fund their digital efforts,” Poltrack says.
Other forecasters are less enthusiastic about the TV picture, including broadcast.
For example, GroupM says that total TV spending in the U.S will grow just 2.3% in 2016 with advertisers “as determined as ever” to explore digital, Futures Director Adam Smith says.
The firm expects national TV to grow by as much as 2% “driven by cable and some reinvestment albeit small in national TV from digital.”
And ZenithOptimedia anticipates 3.8% growth for TV in 2016. “We forecast that the U.S. election will provide a net U.S. $3.2 billion boost to U.S. adspend, especially to television and internet advertising, while the Olympics lifts global adspend by a new U.S. $2.0 billion, especially to television and outdoor.”